With allegations of PED use and a defamation lawsuit filed as a result of them, there's no question this was a tough offseason for Ryan Zimmerman.
He spoke publicly for the first time on the matter Tuesday morning, issuing a defense of his character, a denial of the charges and an explanation of the suit against Al-Jazeera America. He talked for nearly a half-an-hour, at times showing emotion as he detailed the effects the entire saga has had on him and his family.
"I’ve spent my whole career, my whole life really doing things the right way, so you’re shocked," Zimmerman said of when he first heard of the charges in December.
"It’s one of those things where you don’t really have an answer. You don’t know why or how this happened. Then, you turn from being shocked to being angry and frustrated. The biggest thing that frustrated me or angered me was not so much what you guys think or baseball players think, but I spend a lot of time I think in the community in D.C. with kids and families and things like that. To think that, I guess my integrity and the person that I really am is questioned by someone who has never met me, doesn’t know what I’m about. I think that was probably the hardest part."
Zimmerman's denial was strong and he suggested he may need to cut ties with longtime trainer Jason Riley, depending on the findings of MLB's investigation.
"None of that stuff is true. I’ve never done any of that. I’ve never thought about doing any of that. It’s a tough spot. You do everything the right way. You work. You think something like this will never happen, and then, for some reason, it does," he said.
"I think Jason Riley is the reason that I was involved in this. Jason is a trainer I’ve worked with for years. His reputation is one of, if not the cleanest reputation trainers have. I can’t speak for what happens with who he’s involved with, things like that... I would assume that that’s the link. It’s kind of reckless. A lot of people have worked with trainers and things like that. It’s hard to just throw peoples’ names out there without really having any sort of proof.”
Zimmerman was notified in early December when a letter was sent to his agent Brodie Van Wagenen. He got a phone call and the two at first didn't know what to think. Van Wagenen has been Zimmerman's agent for the entirety of his 11-year MLB career and they are very close.
"It was a conversation we thought we’d never have to have. But that stuff happens, and from there we took the steps to get where we’re at today," Zimmerman said.
Those steps included a lawsuit along with Phillies slugger Ryan Howard. Zimmerman shared some insight into how he made the decision to take Al-Jazeera to court.
"It was an easy decision for me to do it because I’m fortunate enough to have the resources," Zimmerman said of filing the suit.
"It’s really, really hard to win these suits, but I think it’s my responsibility not only to clear my name but if I do this and whether I win or lose on the defamation suit whatever it is, even if it gets to a trial, I sort of felt a responsibility because I am able to fight it that maybe if this stops this from happening to just one person after me, then it’s worth it."
Deciding to sue Al-Jazeera, however, does have its drawbacks. For one, Zimmerman has essentially waived his personal privacy in many regards and could open up members of his family and business associates to scrutiny.
"By taking these actions I’m basically letting them into all aspects of my life, unfortunately, that nobody should have access to but now they do. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s for everyone else to decide. It’s one of those things where privacy is really not privacy anymore for me, and it’s unfortunate that I have to do that, but that’s the steps I’m willing to take to show people that I have nothing to hide," he said.
As for what could be investigated, Zimmerman shared some details.
"Anything. Every e-mail you've ever sent. All of your phone records. Those are two pretty invasive things. Anything that you think you wouldn't want people to see, whether you've ever been involved in anything or not. Anything with your family... Also, when the trial starts, obviously stating things under oath. If you don't tell the truth when you do that, obviously the consequences - I didn't go to law school - but the consequences are very big. I don't really know a stronger way to express myself. I don't think there is a stronger way to express myself in this country than that."
Zimmerman laments the fact he has to prove his innocence in the court of public opinion, as well. Zimmerman noted how with social media and the internet, stories can take on a life of their own, no matter the validity.
"There's gotta be a line drawn somewhere. There's gotta be a way for innocent people to not be basically be proven guilty in the public opinion and then have to fight to be innocent. It's supposed to be the other way around in this country," he said.